A different take on the Caped Crusader and the Amazon Princess. A touch of mythos and imagination. Hope you like it. I dnt own any of these characters.
Diana looked down from her perch on a hill and surveyed all that moved under her light: the light of the moon. After a long night of hunting, she liked to take time away from her maidens and cast her eyes over her lunar domain. She liked to see how animals and mortals alike used the light of her moon.
Over the past few moon cycles, a particular mortal had caught her attention. A man, a hero, was using the night as his time to go out into his city, and right the wrongs that happened there. He wore black armour, reminiscent of one of Diana’s favorite night creatures. Using the light Diana shone, he would cast an impressive shadow across the path of evildoers, terrifying them.
Diana approved of his bravery and good intentions, and quite enjoyed watching evildoers receive their punishment. Tonight, the hero had defeated a gang whose goals had been theft of a fine clothing store. One, however, had gotten away on his horse, and now the hero was chasing after the thug through the forest on his own horse. Diana couldn’t see the hero’s face, but she felt that he was enjoying the chase. Diana smiled; she, too, loved a good hunt.
The two men cleared the trees and neared her hill, but before they could start up, the thug turned his horse around and drew a sword from his side. Diana sat up, more attentive. The hero did not carry a sword, this she knew. He was against killing, and believed that wielding a sword made killing too easy.
The thug swung his sword, and the hero ducked. He tried to steer his horse away from the blade, but it was too late. The sword sliced down the side of the horse, not deep enough to kill, but enough to make the animal rear up. The hero lost his seating, and tumbled off. His horse ran off into the trees, and the hero rose to his feet, ducking another sword swing.
Diana lept to her feet, collected her bow and arrows, and sprinted down the hill. Any mortal would have ran too slow, but Diana, being a goddess, was as agile as a doe, and three times as fast. She reached the two men, just as the thug drew his sword up to swing again. Quick as lightning, she notched an arrow, and shot his hand, causing him to cry out and drop his sword. Diana then lodged an arrow in his shoulder, ensuring that he would not die, but would rather be crippled by his pain, for the time being.
Striding up to the the thug, she pulled him down from his horse, and threw him down upon the ground. He did not try to rise. Diana turned her attention to the hero. “Are you hurt?” She asked him.
“No,” he answered, his voice deep and gruff. He gazed at her, and Diana could see that he was not sure what to make of her. “Thank you. For saving my life.”
“It is my pleasure,” she replied. “I am glad to help any mortal who is as brave and selfless as yourself.” The hero narrowed his eyes, and Diana took it as a question. “My name is Diana, Goddess of the hunt.”
The hero hesitated, then slowly sunk to one knee. “My lady.”
“Rise,” Diana said. “It is I who should be commending you for your courage. What is your name?”
The hero did as she commanded, and said, “Bruce. My name is Bruce.”
Bruce fastened his sandals on his feet, combed through his shoulder-length black hair, and called to his manservant, “Alfred!”
The old servant poked his head in through the doorway, and said, “What do you need, Master Bruce?” Having come from the far north, Alfred had an accent that affected his words ever so slightly. It had faded some, but not completely.
“Please have my horse brought to the front. My public address will take place soon, and it’s rather rude to show up late to one’s own speech.”
“Of course.” Alfred bowed his head, then left Bruce to his thoughts. And what preoccupying thoughts they were.
Bruce’s mind had held nothing but thoughts of the Goddess Diana ever since their first meeting three nights ago. After telling her his name, Bruce had stood silently, unsure of what the Goddess would do. He had never met a God before, and before laying eyes on Diana, he hadn’t even been sure he believed in them. But then she had saved him, and had asked if he was hurt.
Bruce was not upset that Diana had saved him, nor did he mind that she had defeated the criminal. He was not that kind of man; as long as criminals received justice, Bruce did not care if that justice came from his hand, or the hand of a God. No, the reason he kept thinking of Diana was because- because why? Perhaps he felt gratitude, he told himself. Or maybe he was just a little shaken because of his encounter with a heavenly being.
Taking a deep breath, he straightened up, breaking out of thoughts. He had a speech to give, he couldn’t be distracted…
Diana was standing in one of the many gardens of her palace. She wound her lasso around her hand, then unwound it, repeating these actions over and over. She couldn’t focus on what her brother, Apollo, was saying. No, her mind was on something else: a mortal. Not just any mortal, either, but a man. Why was this man so intriguing to her?
Perhaps it was because he did not ask for praise for his heroic actions, she told herself. Or maybe it was because he did not cower in false worship, hiding his requests in flattery. She did appreciate honesty.
“Diana?” Said Apollo, amused at his sister’s distracted attitude.
“What?” Said Diana, snapping her attention back to their conversation.
Apollo chuckled. “Keep twisting your lasso, and it’ll fray. Is everything alright?”
Diana heaved a sigh. “Yes. I’m just a bit… confused, I guess.”
Diana hesitated momentarily, but then remembered that her brother had never betrayed her confidence. “I met a mortal three nights ago. He’s a great hero, and very skilled in fighting. But now I cannot stop thinking of him. Why? Why is this?”
Apollo slowly grinned. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that you’ve taken a liking to this mortal. Much more than a fleeting interest.”
“But that’s not like me at all!” Diana exclaimed.
“Far be it from me to tell you what you feel, dear sister. But I think you need to be truthful with yourself. You don’t carry that lasso of truth because it’s pretty, you carry it to remind yourself that Gods and mortals alike need to be honest. That includes being honest with yourself.”
Diana looked down at her lasso, contemplating Apollo’s words. Before she could reply, however, she heard a mortal’s voice saying her name. Someone was praying to her.
“Excuse me,” she said to her brother. “Someone is praying.”
Apollo dipped his head in understanding, and left. Diana sat on a nearby bench…
Bruce walked out into his garden. The flowers were in bloom, and the air was warm. Not sure what, exactly, he should do, he sat on a bench and closed his eyes. “Goddess Diana,” he said quietly, then cleared his throat. “Goddess Diana,” he said again, louder. “It is I, Bruce. I don’t know if you remember me, or if you’re even listening.” He sighed, and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. His eyes were still closed. “Today, I had a public address. I told the people of this city my plans for making their home a better place.
“But I was distracted. I-” He stopped. I could hardly focus, because I kept looking for you in the crowd, is what he thought, but he didn’t say it. Instead, he said, “I have no right to expect you to listen, but I have to be truthful with you, and myself.” He paused for what seemed like forever. Finally he said, “Forgive me for taking your time. I know you must be busy. I just need you to know that… meeting you has changed me. Thank you, my lady.”
Bruce opened his eyes after finishing this prayer, and was shocked to see Diana standing in front of him. He quickly bowed his head, not daring to meet her eyes. She knelt down before him, however, and lifted his chin. He raised his eyes to meet hers.
“Thank you for being honest with me,” Diana said. “And now I must be honest with you. I, too, have been thinking of you. You’ve left an impression on me; you’re quite a mortal, Bruce.” She then rose, said, “I will be watching over you,” and lept into the air, flying higher and higher, until the clouds blocked her from view.
Over the next few weeks, Diana would visit Bruce while he was alone in his house or his garden. He looked forward to her visits, and would frequently turn down offers to spend time with high society, in favor of the Goddess’ visits. Most of the time, Bruce and Diana would talk, discussing the troubles of the world, their favorite fighting techniques, and many other things. Sometime, though, they would show each other their favorite pastimes.
Bruce was a fair archer, but Diana instructed him in her ways, increasing his skill. Bruce showed her how to throw knives, a skill that Diana had never considered learning. And, of course, there were more pleasant activities to focus on. Bruce was an architect, and therefore knew how to draw and paint. Diana would sit by his side and watch as he created pictures on scrolls and pottery.
Diana had a beautiful voice, deep and resonating. She did not sing much, but when she did, Bruce would stop what he was doing, and close his eyes and listen. It was during one of these times, while they were in his house, that an idea came to Bruce. Such a lovely voice must have lovely music to go with it. After she had finished singing, Bruce asked, “Have you ever sung to a harp or lyre?”
“I have, but I don’t make it a habit,” Diana replied. “My brother, Apollo, plays the lyre, and he says that it suits my voice well.”
“He is right,” said Bruce, smiling. “We-” he began, then stopped himself. We should ask him to play while you sing, is what he had wanted to say. But he had refrained, because he had forgotten that Diana was a Goddess, her brother was a God, and he, a mortal, was smarter than to ask anything of a God such as Apollo. He valued his life too much.
Diana cocked her head. “What is it? What do you wish to say?”
Bruce gazed at her a few moments, then said, “I wish that we could ask your brother to play while you sing. But I haven’t even met him. I could not dare ask such a thing.”
Diana took a deep breath, thinking. Then she said, “While it may not be appropriate for you to ask something of a God, I wish for you to meet my brother. He knows of you, and I wish for the mortal and the family member I care most about, to meet.”
The meeting took place on a hill that was several miles outside of the city. Bruce stood on top of the hill, underneath a tree, waiting for Diana to bring her brother. She had assured him that Apollo would not hold any ill will toward him, and that he was a very agreeable God, but Bruce was still nervous. He didn’t show it, though; he was used to high-pressure situations.
Bruce stared into the sky, waiting for a sign of movement. Then, out from behind a cloud, they appeared: two figures floating down side by side. Bruce relaxed his shoulders, taking a deep breath.
Diana and Apollo landed softly in the grass. Apollo smiled brightly at Bruce, his grin holding a hint of good-natured mischief. Bruce knelt on one knee, and said, “My lord Apollo. It is an honor.”
“Rise, Bruce. If my sister favors you, then you need not bow to me,” Apollo responded. Bruce rose, and returned the God’s grin with a friendly smile.
“I am glad you two could finally meet,” said Diana. “Bruce, it was Apollo who told me to be honest with myself about what I feel.”
“Well for that, I thank you,” Bruce said to Apollo. “These past few weeks, we have spent a lot of time together. I look forward to her visits more than anything else.” As he finished saying this, he looked at Diana; she was smiling, unabashed, at his statement.
Suddenly, the wind picked up, sending a shiver down Bruce’s back. The sky was covered by dark storm clouds, and a loud voice boomed, “Diana! What are you doing with this mortal?”
The smiled slipped from Diana’s face, replaced with a look of fear and anger. “Jupiter. My father.” Then she shouted, “Father! What do you want?”
The voice came again, saying, “I want you to explain yourself! Don’t you remember your duties? You are the maiden Goddess, a beacon of purity!”
“I make my own choices!” Diana shouted back. “Is it so bad that I care for a mortal?”
“He has defiled you! And you have betrayed yourself!”
Apollo was about to say something, but it was now that Bruce spoke up. “I have done nothing to compromise the integrity of your daughter. But you should have more faith in Diana! Her feelings are true, yet she does not abandon reason! She cares about her followers, and watches over them!”
Thunder rumbled overhead. “How dare you address me?” Jupiter yelled. There was a bright flash of lightning, then Bruce fell to the ground, his hair and toga smoking. Diana gasped and fell to his side, feeling his neck for a pulse. Finding nothing, she bowed her head.
“Father!” Apollo shouted. “This is not the way the king of the Gods should act!”
“It is not for you to decide how I should or should not act!” Jupiter boomed.
Diana’s eyes glistened with unshed, angry tears, as she screamed to the sky, “Jupiter! If you call me your daughter, then you will do this one act for me. If I promise never to meet with him again, will you let him live?”
Jupiter was silent for a few moments, then said, “I will grant him his life, if you agree not to set foot in the mortal world for one-hundred years.”
“Father-” started Apollo.
“You stay out of this!” said Jupiter.
Diana looked at Bruce, lying still on the ground, then back at the sky. “I promise not to set foot in the mortal world for one-hundred years.”
“Then I will return this man’s life to him.” There came another flash of lightning, and then Bruce was gasping for air. He tried to sit up, but Diana urged him to rest. “Say your goodbyes, Diana,” said Jupiter.
“D-Diana?” Bruce panted. “What- what’s he talking about?”
Diana tried for a smile, but couldn’t manage one. “In return for your life, I cannot step foot in the mortal world for a hundred years,” she whispered. “We cannot meet anymore.”
“No,” said Bruce, again struggling to get up. “No!”
“There is nothing you can do, mortal,” said Jupiter. “The deal has already been struck.”
“I’m so sorry Bruce.” Diana rose to her feet, and Apollo took her hand. Bruce stood, leaning against the tree for support.
“Goodbye!” Said the Goddess, then turned away. Together, she and her brother lept into the air, flying up and out of sight.
“I will fight for you!” Bruce shouted after them as the storm clouds recoiled from the sky. “I will fight for you!”
Bruce lit the incense that rested in the golden tray, then knelt down before one of the many altars that stood in the temple. It had been three weeks since Diana and he had parted, and Bruce had come to Apollo many times to beg for an audience with the sun God. He had tried shouting and cursing at the sky, praying from high places, and even contacting some of Apollo’s prophets. Nothing had worked; Apollo was still silent.
Eventually, seeing that other methods were not working, he had come to Apollo’s temple, offered incense, and then prayed. This had not yielded any results, but Bruce felt that if anything would work, it would be this.
“Lord Apollo,” he now prayed. “Heed my plea. I beg you, show yourself to me. Meet with me. I wish to fight for your sister, to prove myself to your father. There is nothing I will not do.” Bruce was silent for a while, thinking of what he wanted to say. “I know you can hear me, and I know that you approve of what Diana and I have. Please. I have a plan.” Bruce had not mentioned this plan to Apollo before, and he had a feeling that it would get the God’s attention.
A raven flew in through the open doors of the temple and landed on the the edge of the golden tray. Bruce looked up at it, and the bird fluttered to the ground and hopped back toward the doors. Bruce rose and followed, running after it when it took off.
The raven led Bruce around the side of the temple and into an area where there were many trees, and no people. Then it alighted on the ground, and with a flash of sunlight, it transformed into a man wearing a toga and a purple cape. The man turned, and Bruce, blinking the spots from the flash out of his sight, saw that it was Apollo.
“You summoned me,” said Apollo, looking irritated. “What is this plan of yours?”
“Lord Apollo, thank you for seeing me,” said Bruce. “I propose that you take me to your father, and let me talk with him, face to face. I can convince him that Diana has done nothing to deserve her banishment, and that we truly have something worth keeping.”
Apollo laughed. “I am already tempting the fates by meeting with you. If I brought you before my father, he would sentence me to a fate worse than my sister’s. And you- well, by the time he would finish with you, there would be nothing to send to Pluto.”
Bruce folded his arms and growled in the back of his throat. “Is there any God or Goddess that does not fear Jupiter?”
“A few. My mother, Juno, Venus, the Goddess of love, and, of course, Neptune, God of the Seas.”
Bruce squinted and sat down on the ground. “Perhaps,” he said slowly, “if we met with them as well as Jupiter, they would support my plight.”
“Venus and Neptune probably will,” said Apollo. “But I’m not sure about my mother. She can be unpredictable. She does not fear my father, but she may not approve of you and Diana.”
“I’m willing to try it,” said Bruce, getting to his feet.
“Even if it means you may die?”
Apollo sighed. “Alright. Tonight, I will call a family meeting. Then I will come and get you from your house. Since you are a mortal, you will need to wear something magical to protect you, at all times. Otherwise, you will burn up from the splendor of Mount Olympus. Here,” he removed his cape and held it out to Bruce. “Wear this.”
Bruce took it. The fabric was as soft as swan feathers. “Thank you, Lord Apollo. Thank you for everything.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” Apollo responded. “Your life may be ending tonight.”
There was another bright flash, and then Apollo was a raven again, soaring over the treetops.
The sun had just finished setting. The sky was still streaked with orange and pink, and Bruce decided that if any night was a good night to die, it was this one. His only regret was that he might not be able to protect his city after tonight. Such a thought almost made him want to give up on his plan, but he decided to follow through. He was not one to back out.
He sat waiting, Apollo’s cape around his shoulders. He heard a sound and turned, seeing Alfred walk into the room with a tray carrying a wine glass. “I thought you might like some refreshment before you leave, Master Bruce,” said the old man.
Bruce smiled sadly. “Thank you Alfred, I would like something to drink.” He lifted the glass from the tray and took a sip. “This is wonderful wine. You always pick the best drinks, Alfred.”
“Well I should hope I do,” said Alfred. “I have been doing this for longer than you’ve been alive.”
“And if I don’t come back tonight, I hope that your next master appreciates you as much as I do,” said Bruce. Alfred knew about everything: Bruce’s first meeting with Diana, their time spent together, her punishment for seeing him. Alfred was Bruce’s closest confidant.
“Master Bruce,” said Alfred, setting his tray on a table. “I have every confidence in the world that you will come back tonight. But if you don’t, then I shall join you soon in the afterlife.”
The raven flew in an open window, and seeing it, Alfred said, “I think now is the time for me to bow out gracefully.” He took up the tray and exited the room.
When he had gone, Apollo transformed once more into a man. “Are you ready?”
Bruce rose. “I am.”
Apollo offered his arm, and together, they walked out into Bruce’s garden. Apollo lifted off from the ground, enveloping Bruce with his magic, so that the mortal would not fall to his death. Bruce clung tight to his arm.
They flew quickly, upward, and to the east. They rose above the clouds, and Bruce saw in the distance a mountain: Mount Olympus, home of the Gods. Apollo quickened their flight, and soon they were flying over rooftops, past palaces, and through the doors of the temple on the peak of the mount.
Apollo touched down lightly, and Bruce hesitantly let go of his arm. “Scared?” Asked the God. He tried for a reassuring smile, but the smile was filled with anxiety.
“I just don’t want to burn up from the splendor of the mount,” retorted Bruce, his words holding a hint of sarcasm.
“Like I said, just keep the cape on and you’ll be fine,” said Apollo. Then he pointed to a pair of double doors that lead farther into the temple. “Through those, my family sits waiting. All of them. Do you know what you’re going to say?” Bruce nodded. “Then here we go,” Apollo finished. Then he strode up to the doors and pushed them open. Bruce followed.
Inside, the room was gigantic, and for good reason. There were twelve thrones, at least 20 feet high, arranged in a circle, and in these thrones sat the Gods. They were giant, and as he walked, Apollo grew to their height.
“Apollo!” Cried a God, his skin dark and his hair cropped. “You’re late! I thought you were the one who called this meeting!”
“I was,” Apollo responded. He stepped into the middle of the circle, and Bruce followed. The Gods gasped, and an old man with a white beard grabbed something from beside his chair, something that looked like lightning. “Everyone please!” Apollo said. “This mortal is here because he needs his plea to be heard. Father,” Apollo addressed the old man with the lightning bolt. “Please listen.”
“This is the same mortal who was with Diana!” Jupiter shouted, causing Bruce to nearly cover his ears. “How dare you bring him here?”
“Indeed, I am the same mortal!” Bruce shouted up at the Gods. He turned around, taking in each one, and upon seeing Diana, he smiled sadly. She returned the smile, but her eyes took on a gaze of great worry. “Please, listen to me! The Lady Diana and I have spent much time together, this is true. We have enjoyed each other’s company, and we have grown to care for each other. I know that my Lord Jupiter does not think that I am worthy of her, and that by caring for me, she has betrayed herself.
“But I say that Diana has not betrayed herself. You all know her! She values honesty and truth! If she did not care for me, then she would not have spent so much time with me. She would not have sacrificed her freedom for one-hundred years, just so that Jupiter would not kill me! She has been true to herself, and you,” Bruce turned to Jupiter, “you punish her for that!”
The Gods murmured to each other in a language that Bruce did not understand. A woman on Jupiter’s right whispered in his ear. Jupiter looked angry, but then sighed when the woman glared at him.
At last, Jupiter spoke. “Mortal! What is your name?”
“My name is Bruce, Lord Jupiter.”
“Alright. All who side against Bruce, stand.” Half of the Gods stood, while Apollo took his seat. Jupiter was among those standing. “All who side with Bruce, stand.” The Gods who were standing, took their seat, and the other half stood up.
“Half and half,” said Apollo. Bruce sighed. It was better than what he had hoped for.
Jupiter stroked his beard. “It would seem that we have come to a stalemate, Bruce. Hmm. You seem to think that you are worthy for my daughter. Well, we shall see how worthy you are. In three days, we will all meet again, in the courtyard at the base of the mount. There, you will fight a champion that I will choose.
“If you win, Diana may talk with you again. If my champion wins, then you will die. Do you agree to these conditions?”
Bruce thought about it. He weighed his chances. Then he looked back at Diana. She was gazing at him and shaking her head. Bruce turned back to Jupiter. “I agree. Name your champion.”
Jupiter smiled. “I name my son, Hercules.” The woman to his right glared at him.
“Alright,” said Bruce. “I will return in three days.”
Bruce dropped down from the pole that stretched between the tops of two pillars. At the start of his nighttime crusade, he had had this room built especially for the purpose of strengthening himself. During these three days allotted him before the fight, he intended to prepare his muscles for the fight of his life.
Bruce had heard tales of Hercules, and he knew of the hero’s great strength. But he also knew his own strength. He had years of experience and strategy under his belt, and he also had something to fight for.
He took a drink of water from the pitcher that stood on a nearby table, and was about to begin another round of pull-ups, when Alfred poked his head in. “My apologies for the intrusion, Master Bruce, but you have a visitor.”
“Really? Who?” Bruce asked.
“He tells me that he’s related to your Goddess friend,” said Alfred.
Bruce raised his eyebrows. “Well, send him in, then.”
Alfred did as he was told, and a few moments later, the God who had greeted Apollo at the meeting entered the room. He looked around, sizing up the equipment that filled the empty space.
“May I ask who-” started Bruce, but the God held up a hand.
“Mars. The God of war. I see you’ve been training for the fight. That would be a good idea, if it weren’t useless.” Bruce started to object, but Mars cut him off. “You may think that, by having fought men before, you’re prepared to fight Hercules. I’m here to tell you that you will fail, unless you accept my help.”
Bruce waited a moment to make sure that Mars had finished, and then said, “Why will I fail?”
“Because this is Hercules. Haven’t you heard the stories? He has defeated many a monster, and he holds the favor of Jupiter. That’s why I’m here to help.”
“Why would you help me?”
Mars smiled at this question. “Because I’m the God of war, of fighting. I’d like to see a good, fair fight, as opposed to another match where Hercules’ opponent is unprepared. That’s just boring.”
Bruce sighed. He was growing tired of this God’s brisk way of talking. “Fine. What is your plan?”
“My plan? My plan is to spar with you. Teach you how to use a sword, teach you how to fight. Hercules will use any method available in order to preserve his glory; that’s what this is to him, you know. Not a fight for Diana’s honor, a fight to retain his status. Now, enough talk. Let’s start.”
Over the next three days, Bruce and Mars sparred long and hard. Bruce longed to sleep, to rest, to tend to bruises and cuts, but he did not. He knew that he needed as much time as possible to train.
Mars was a brutal teacher, but Bruce had had teachers like him before. He was familiar with the God’s training tactics. During one sparring session with swords, Mars sliced Bruce across the back of his right forearm. “I could have taken off your hand,” snarled the God. “You need to pay attention!”
In response, Bruce took a deep breath, and stepped closer to the God, jabbing with his sword, forcing the God to parry. Never stop, never take a break, was Bruce’s one thought. The days passed, and when the time came for Apollo to take Bruce back to Mount Olympus, Mars clapped Bruce on the shoulder, and said, “Give him a good fight.” Bruce only nodded once. Mars then disappeared in a shower of red sparks.
“Where is the cape I gave you?” Apollo asked Bruce after entering the house in human form.
“Here it is, Master Apollo,” said Alfred, entering the room. He held the cape in his arms. Having spent the last few days apart from its heavenly owner, the cape was no longer a rich purple, but a deep black.
“Thank you Alfred,” said Apollo, dipping his head toward the old man. Alfred gave the cape to Bruce, and Bruce swung it over his shoulders. “Ready?” Apollo asked.
Bruce nodded. “I am.” He picked up one of the few swords he had in his personal armory, fastened the sheath around his waist, and took Apollo’s offered arm.
“Goodbye Master Bruce, and good luck,” Alfred said as the God and Bruce walked outside.
“Goodbye Alfred,” responded Bruce. “And thank you for everything.”
Bruce and Apollo touched down in the center of the courtyard that Jupiter had spoken about. It was huge, with vine-covered pillars around the edges. The family of Gods stood in a cluster, their backs facing the mount that rose high into the clouds.
“Welcome, all, to this test of character,” Jupiter said grandly. “I call forth my champion. Hercules! Step forward!”
A tall man stepped forward through the group of Gods. He was broad-shouldered and his skin was leathered and sunbaked. His dark eyes were cold, holding no emotion in them. He bowed first to his father, then to Bruce.
Bruce bowed back ever so slightly. “My Lords and Ladies,” he started. “I would like to say something before we begin.”
Jupiter sighed. “Very well, mortal. Speak.”
“I would like to say that the Lady Diana does not need me to fight for her. Her honor and favor are hers to decide what to do with. I only fight to prove myself to the rest of you.” Bruce finished this speech with a look at Diana. A corner of her mouth was turned up, and she nodded once to him. He smiled and nodded back.
“Is that all?” Jupiter asked.
“Good. Let the match begin!”
Hercules drew his sword, and Bruce followed his lead. They started to circle around and around, sizing each other up. Hercules was bigger than Bruce, so Bruce decided that he’d have to be quicker.
The demigod drew back his sword and charged. Bruce brought his sword up, and their opposing metals struck each other, emitting a loud clang!
They fought, Bruce relying on every bit of Mars’ training to keep himself alive. Hercules was certainly skilled with a sword, and Bruce was grateful for the teachings he had received from Mars and previous instructors.
Hercules was as tall as Bruce, but, thanks to his godly blood, was stronger. Bruce tried to keep some distance between them. Hercules tried to close the gap, and Bruce saw several openings to pierce his opponent’s skin. He jabbed, but Hercules parried, quickly taking the offensive again.
This cycle repeated. Bruce would try to gain the upper hand, but always wound up defending himself. However, he did so very well, and Hercules was not able to even tear his toga. At last Hercules stopped, and cast his sword aside. “Let us fight with no weapons. Let us test our true selves!”
Bruce sheathed his sword and removed the sheath from his belt. He set it on the ground, then charged at Hercules. Hercules braced himself and at the last moment, twisted aside and caught Bruce by the shoulders, slamming him to the ground. Bruce grunted, and swung his hand up, slamming his palm against the demigod’s ear. Hercules bit back a howl, and Bruce struggled to his feet.
They wrestled, growing more and more barbaric in their moves. They were both growing tired, but Bruce knew that he could not outlast a demigod. He lunged at Hercules once again, but this time, he spun to the side before Hercules could catch him. He caught his opponent in a headlock and slowly began to squeeze. However, he stopped before cutting off his air completely.
Looking up to the group of Gods, Bruce called out, “I have won!”
“You have not!” Jupiter boomed back. “He still breathes! If you truly want to show me you are a worthy mortal, you will not succumb to such cowardice. Kill him.”
Bruce furrowed his eyebrows. In his arms, Hercules struggled more, despite his lack of air. “I do not need to kill to win,” said Bruce. He looked at Diana, then at Apollo, and finally at Juno. If anyone could convince Jupiter to change his mind, she could.
“Kill him!” Jupiter repeated. Juno gazed back at Bruce for a few long moments, then turned her head and whispered something in Jupiter’s ear. He frowned, then lowered his head. After a moment of silence, he called out, “The mortal Bruce has won!”
Murmurs broke out among the Gods, some relieved, some angry. Bruce released his hold on Hercules. The demigod dropped to all fours, gasping for breath. Bruce turned towards Diana, who was smiling widely. Bruce started towards her, his feelings crashing together inside him. Relief, happiness, love, and uncertainty all ran through his mind, but all were cut off by Diana shouting, “Look out!”
Diana had been so caught up in Bruce’s victory that she had not noticed Hercules lunging at Bruce until it was too late. Now she called to the hero, “Look out!” Bruce turned, but Hercules landed a grip on his cape. His momentum carried the demigod forward, and he tore the cape from Bruce’s shoulders, causing a large rip to appear in the material.
Several gasps came from the group of Gods, and Diana sprinted forward, grabbing the cape from Hercules’ hands and throwing it around Bruce. But it was no use. A golden glow was beginning to emanate from him, even as he pulled the cape tighter around himself. Diana covered her mouth, her eyes wide.
“My lady,” Bruce said, his face showing his dismay. “It would seem- that my time has come.” Then he muttered, “I feel… too hot.” He started to breathe heavily.
“No no, hold on Bruce. Father!” Diana called over her shoulder to Jupiter. “Do something!”
“I’m sorry Diana,” said Jupiter, not sounding sorry at all. “But I cannot change the fact that mortals cannot survive on Mount Olympus.”
“Diana,” said Bruce, calling her attention back to him. He was growing brighter, and his tears evaporated before they could fall down his cheeks. “I wish for you to know, before I can no longer tell you, that I love you.”
Diana removed an armband and forced it onto his wrist, hoping it could save him, but he only grew brighter. The glory of the mount had had its way. Diana let her tears fall. “I love you, as well.” Then she leaned closer, unaffected by the glow and the heat, and kissed him for the first time.
The kiss lasted a few seconds, and then Bruce was gone. Diana’s armband clattered to the ground, and the torn cape floated down, covering a pile of ashes. Diana dropped to her knees, silent.
~One century later~
Diana floated down, touching the earth for the first time in one-hundred years. Although Jupiter had released her from her punishment, she had vowed not to set foot on earth for that length of time. Now she was ready to reconnect with her domain.
It was nighttime, naturally. She took a deep breath, and listened. There was a deer in the glade half a mile from where she stood. An owl hooted up on a hill. A flutter wings caught her attention. Turning her head to the right, she saw a bat fly out of a tree, and across the night sky. She smiled. It was good to know that the creature of the night still flew.